By: Katie Gerweck
Disclosure: Katie Gerweck is Editor-in-Chief on EMU PRSSA’s E-Board.
As students, it is drilled into our heads that in order to land a good job after college we need to not only have experience and a portfolio filled with writing samples, but also have connections in the professional world. According to the Strategic Business Network, “To succeed you must continually connect with new people, cultivate emerging relationships and leverage your network” (source).
However, even if students know they should be networking, it can difficult to find and reach out to professionals in the field. Fortunately, that’s where networking events like Speed Mentoring can help. The Eastern Michigan University (EMU) chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) hosts a Speed Mentoring event every year. According to EMU PRSSA faculty advisor Jamie Ward, “Speed mentoring is a wonderful opportunity for students to receive career advice from executive-level professionals from a variety of different industries.”
Although some students may have experienced the event this year, few know the work that went into planning it. Lauren Houck, the vice president of special events and programs for EMU PRSSA, said she started reaching out to potential mentors in December. According to Houck, she looked for potential mentors on LinkedIn and Twitter, searched public relations and marketing firms online, and reached out to some of her own mentors.
Lauren Houck planned the Speed Mentoring Event. Photo by: Katie Gerweck
Houck also got help from other members of EMU PRSSA. Houck discussed her progress at E-Board meetings, and several members stepped up to help, including Vice President of Professional Development Nikki Mikolon and President Andrea Mellendorf.
“Nikki had a few connections which led to two people from the communications department at Ford Motor Co. coming. Andrea helped by booking the room the previous semester and telling me how to structure the event,” Houck said.
Of course, anyone who has done event planning knows that things do not always go as planned. Houck said she had 12 mentors scheduled for this year’s event, but one mentor was a no-show and another was hospitalized the day of the event.
“I tried to get a diverse amount of mentors, and not just strictly those who work in PR…My political PR guy was hospitalized which was devastating,” Houck said.
In the end, however, it all seemed to work out. Ward said she was “pleased with the positive feedback PRSSA has received from the event,” and Houck was also happy with the way the event went.
“There was a great turnout and the mentors were all great. They all seemed impressed with our students and I think the students made some really great connections with professionals,” she said.
Photo by: Katie Gerweck
Ultimately, the goal for EMU PRSSA is to see students make those important connections with professionals.
“I hope that students can form meaningful connections with professionals in the field or be motivated and inspired to find their place in public relations,” said Mellendorf.
For more networking opportunities, paid PRSSA members can go on agency tours. You can also find networking tips here.
Katie Gerweck is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in journalism. She is the editor-in-chief for EMU PRSSA. She was the copy chief for the Eastern Echo during the summer of 2015.